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Sunday, October 22

Day Twenty-Two: Idea to Novel Workshop: The Inciting Event

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Welcome to Day Twenty-Two of Fiction University’s At-Home Workshop: Idea to Novel in 31 Days. For the rest of the month, we’ll focus on plot and the major turning points of a novel.

Today, we’re digging into the inciting event.

The Path to the Plot


The inciting event is the trigger that sets the rest of the plot in motion. Sometimes the inciting event is in the opening scene or chapter; other times it’s farther along in the novel. It traditionally falls somewhere between page one and thirty, or page one and fifty for longer novels.

Wherever it falls, it doesn’t have to be a huge, action-packed deal if that doesn’t fit the novel. It can be subtle, or it can be in-your-face obvious. It just needs to lead somewhere and cause something that’s much bigger, even it if takes a few chapters to get there.

Why the inciting event is important: This is the moment that sets the protagonist on the path to the rest of the plot. It’s also a major turning point in the plot, and a vital component of the working synopsis. This scene typically connects the opening scene to the act one problem scene, working as a bridge between the beginning of the novel and the middle of the novel.

Key Elements of an Inciting Event
  • The protagonist is presented with a problem and an opportunity to act.
  • The protagonist chooses to act and steps onto the path to the core conflict, or is dragged onto the path by greater forces.
  • This action triggers the rest of the novel.
The trigger is an important distinction with an inciting event. The action has consequences that ripple throughout the novel. If this moment did not occur, the novel would have turned out differently, or the plot would not have happened at all.

Things to consider to further develop your inciting event:

1. How does the protagonist get to this moment from the opening scene?

2. What’s the protagonist trying to do when this moment occurs? (the scene goal)

3. What is the conflict of the scene?

4. What’s at stake in the scene?

5. How is this problem resolved?

6. Does this event also affect the protagonist’s character arc? How?

7. How does the resolution trigger the next step of the plot?


EXERCISE: Describe the moment where the protagonist’s life changes and he starts on the path to the novel’s core conflict.


Be as detailed or as vague as you’d like. Consider how this scene builds off your opening scene and how it might lead to the next scene. Include any notes that might help later.

If you’re not sure how much to write, aim for one to three paragraphs that describe how the protagonist went from the opening scene to the moment the inciting event happens, what he’s trying to do, his reasons why, what goes wrong, what’s at stake, and the decision that will transition to the next scene. Writing more is also acceptable if you want to continue with how the plot would unfold to the next major turning point.

Those following along with the PYN book: Workshop Ten goes into more depth on the individual turning points of story structure, as well and the basics of scene and sequel structure. It also shares tips on plotting and story development.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the act one problem and how it gets the plot moving.

Follow along at home with the book, Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure. Get more brainstorming questions and things to think about, in-depth articles, and clear examples of every step from idea to novel.

Paperback: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound  | Google Books | Books-A-Million | Chapters/!ndio

Ebook: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Overdrive | Kobo | Inktera | Chapters/!ndio

Go step-by-step through plotting and writing a novel. Learn how to find and develop ideas, brainstorm stories from that first spark of inspiration, develop the right characters, setting, plots and subplots, as well as teach you how to identify where your novel fits in the market, and if your idea has what it takes to be a series.

With clear and easy-to-understand examples, Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure offers ten self-guided workshops with more than 100 different exercises to help you craft a solid novel. Learn how to:
  • Create compelling characters readers will love
  • Choose the right point of view for your story
  • Determine the conflicts that will drive your plot (and hook readers!)
  • Find the best writing process for your writing style
  • Create a solid plot from the spark of your idea
Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure also helps you develop the critical elements for submitting and selling your novel once it’s finished. You’ll find exercises on how to:
  • Craft your one-sentence pitch
  • Create your summary hook blurb
  • Develop a solid working synopsis And so much more!
Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is an easy-to-follow guide to writing your novel or fixing a novel that isn’t quite working. 

Available in paperback and ebook formats.

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book.

She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

When she's not writing novels, she's teaching other writers how to improve their craft. She's the founder of Fiction University and has written multiple books on writing.
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